Solid supported membranes and especially tether bilayer lipid membranes (tBLMs) have been shown to provide versatile and robust model platforms mimicking the complex structure and function of biological cell membranes. A tBLM consists of a lipid bilayer, where the proximal leaflet is anchored to a solid support via a spacer group. This spacer provides flexibility and lifts the membrane off the solid support. The molecular structure of the spacer furthermore influences the structural and functional properties of the bilayer itself.
We have developed a range of tBLM structures, allowing for an optimisation the membrane architecture to study membrane related processes, such as the integration and function of membrane proteins. The high electrical resistance of the tBLMs makes them especially suited for the investigation of ion transport processes across the membrane.
Here, we have used the tBLM to study the effect of small molecules, drugs and nano particles on the membrane structure and on the function of embedded membrane proteins and peptides. The solid support enables the uses of surface analytical techniques, such as electrochemical impedance spectroscopy, atomic force microscopy, neutron reflectivity and surface plasmon resonance techniques.
Small molecules such as ethanol seem to have a reversible effect on the membrane structure and through this on the function of ion transporting peptides. On the other hand, drugs such as chlorpromazine and small silver nano particles led to more permanent changes in the membrane structure.